23 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Kids in Downtown Seattle

In between errands the kids and I are often out and about in downtown Seattle. I've become a master at finding inexpensive activities that the kids will enjoy, and I thought I'd share them in this post. If you know of one I've missed, please add it in comments.

The kids enjoy a maze temporarily set up outside Westlake Center in Seattle
The kids enjoy a maze temporarily set up outside Westlake Center in Seattle
Shopping Area
  1. If you're stroller free, hop on a bus in the free ride zone (note that while busses are free downtown, this doesn't include light rail)
    Everest just loves a bus ride
    Everest just loves a bus ride
  2. Try to make it through the rain wall at Westlake Park (across from Westlake Center) without getting wet
  3. Dry of with a cup of hot chocolate in the Dilettante Mocha Cafe in Westlake Center
  4. Take in the view at the Columbia Tower Starbucks on the 40th floor. It's not as glamorous as the observation deck on the 73rd floor ($5 per person) but it's free.
  5. Check out the Chihuly art glass installation at City Centre Shopping Center (1420 5th Ave # 450) or the Sheraton Seattle Hotel
  6. Watch the street performers do their thing
    You never know what the street artists might be doing!
    You never know what the street artists might be doing!
  7. Have a snack as rock climbers reach new heights at the indoor wall in the Medical Dental Building (511 Olive Way between 5th Ave & 6th Ave)
  8. Cuddle up with a book (or play at the train table) at Barnes and Noble in Pacific Place Shopping Center
    Darya checks out a book at Barnes and Noble's Children's Section in Downtown Seattle
    Darya checks out a book at Barnes and Noble's Children's Section in Downtown Seattle
  9. Pick up a free map at the Downtown Seattle information booth outside of Westlake Center, and then plot your path for the day
  10. Run circles around the saltwater and freshwater fish tanks in the Nordstrom Children's Department
  11. Hop on the lightrail and explore every station or just get off at the next stop.
    Station art at Beacon Hill Link Light Rail Station
    Station art at Beacon Hill Link Light Rail Station
  12. Even though it's not really an activity, I can't resist adding Daiso, the Japanese dollar store, in Westlake Center. This is where you pick up stickers, Japanese erasers, cute notebooks and other items to get you through that 3-course meal you're dragging the kids to tonight.
    Darya can't resist the lure of the Daiso Japanese Dollar store in Downtown Seattle
    Darya can't resist the lure of the Daiso Japanese Dollar store in Downtown Seattle
  13. Soundbridge, the kids music museum at Benaroya Hall has drop in musical storytelling and music making classes for kids age 2-5 Wednesday through Saturday. Adult admission is $5 and kids under 5 are free. check here for a calendar of events.
  14. Float leaves in the "stream" at the Benaroya Hall Garden of Remembrance
    Garden of Remembrance outside of Benaroya Hall
    Garden of Remembrance outside of Benaroya Hall
  15. Explore the Seattle Central Library and then cuddle up with a book in the children's area
    Seattle Public Library Lobby
    Seattle Public Library Lobby
  16. Enjoy the "flashing cars" and free crafts in the fee areas of the Seattle Art Museum
  17. Pick up a single piece of chocolate or a fabulously rich chocolaty drink at my favorite chocolate shop in town. Fran's Chocolates. The gray salt caramels are a local favorite.
  18. Pick up a half-dozen mini donuts for under $3 at the Daily Dozen Donut company (located at the entrance to Pike Place Market
  19. Sit on the big piggy bank in front of Pike Place Market
  20. Watch the fish fly by at Pike Place Fish Company
  21. Buy a balloon from the balloon man at Pike Place Market - you set the price
  22. Ride the monorail from Westlake Center to Seattle Center and back again ($2.25 for Adults and $1 for kids age 5-12)
  23. Hear the Seattle Symphony's 26-foot (eight-meter) tall, 4,490-pipe Watjen concert organ in Benaroya Hall at one of the symphony's free recitals, held Mondays at 12:30 p.m. on a bimonthly basis
Related Links
City Guide: Seattle with Kids
Explore Seattle's Link Light Rail With Kids

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Comments

  1. Katie Martin

    http://www.westmarkhotels.com/
    March 15, 2012 at 4:03 p.m.

    These are such fun ideas, even as someone who is just hanging out with friends instead of kids. Sounds like you really have a hang on finding ways to entertain your kids that don't solely involve an electronic device, which is so refreshing!
    I think I would also suggest finding different musicians who perform at Pike Place and just listening for a while. There are always at least two or three, and some even encourage dancing which is so fun, especially for kids. Oh, and what are the "flashing cars" at the Seattle Art Museum?

  2. Debbie

    March 15, 2012 at 9:28 p.m.

    Katie,

    The "flashing cars" is what my kids call Cai Guo-Qiang's Inopportune: Stage One installation - it's in SAM's lobby, where you can see it for free.

  3. Sonja

    May 2, 2012 at 9:32 p.m.

    Why, in tip #1, do you say "if you're stroller free"? Are strollers not allowed on buses in Seattle?

    I recently relocated to the Seattle area from Norway. I'm used to rolling my stroller on and off the buses in Norway, Germany and several other European countries in which we traveled.

  4. Debbie

    May 2, 2012 at 10:39 p.m.

    @Sonja Strollers are allowed on busses, but they must be folded up. It's worthwhile to do that if you're actually going somewhere, but for a free ride, I probably wouldn't bother.

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